When you leave the country even on a short trip — I am in Europe for ten days — you get to look back at the USA with a bit of perspective, not so much as a foreigner but as a citizen with a little distance from the fray.
Walking around a not yet tourist-infested Florence in the shadow of Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo, giants of human civilization, you’re struck by how little of interest or merit is going on now on both sides of the Atlantic — how small we have become, trivial actually.
We’re a bunch of bores, really. Civilization is not at its height. And that’s not because we’re living “Love in the Time of Cholera.” We don’t even have the excuse of an epidemic, let alone war. We’re living “Envy in the Time of Tedious Petty Outrage.” John Brennan and Adam Schiff are symbols of our time, not Botticelli or Lorenzo de Medici.
Of course there was plenty of that good old-fashioned envy and backstabbing back in the Renaissance. It’s well documented. But it’s all we’ve got. They had a lot more — a whole lot.
I was wandering tonight by the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Niccolo Machiavelli is buried — that genius who revealed to us all the dark secrets of politics (although he did it for humanist purposes). One wonders what Machiavelli would have made of new House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler’s demanding documents and testimony from 80-plus people regarding Donald Trump, “to make sure that this is not a dictatorship and that the rule of law is respected.”
I suspect Niccolo would have had a laugh. (Besides being the author of The Prince, Machiavelli was a terrific comic playwright. If you haven’t read The Mandrake, put it on your list.) Trump as a dictator? If only. What an ineffectual despot. He couldn’t even pass healthcare. They know from dictators around here. Il Duce wouldn’t have wasted five minutes complaining about “witch hunts” or insulting his enemies on Twitter. He would’ve had them shot.
Nevertheless, Nadler rattles on: “[Y]ou’ve had two years of sustained attacks by an administration of the nature that we haven’t seen probably in a century or more, against the free press, against the courts, against law enforcement administrations… against freedom of speech.”
More comedy from Nadler. Doesn’t he know that Trump is the media’s best friend? It couldn’t be more obvious. The New York Times was practically in receivership before he was elected. Now they’re thriving.
No one ever accused Jerrold — or any present day Democrat (or Republican, alas) — of having the brains of Machiavelli, but he certainly must know that quote often attributed to Niccolo (it’s actually Emerson): “When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”
My suspicion is this is all going to backfire big time — which is why, walking around Florence, I am taking much of what is going on in the Stati Uniti with a grain of the proverbial salt. John “I Like Gus, not Ike” Brennan is apparently predicting the arrival finalemente of the Mueller report on Friday in the company of, wait for it, indictments of Trump family members, at which point, Brennan further predicts, the president will fire Mueller.
All this drama while I am still in Italy? The nerve of Brennan. No bistecca alla fiorentina for him!
Whatever happens in this unholy mess, we should resurrect Machiavelli to dramatize it. I couldn’t think of anyone better.
Roger L. Simon — co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media — is an author and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.